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Successful Workface Planning for Your Piping Scope: Recommendations from a Work Packaging Practition

At the heart of an efficient and user-friendly work packaging system are people. The efforts of several key personnel are required to ensure that project scope is divided and dissected into manageable work packages. In addition to serving as a guide for field supervision, work packages also assist project controls staff in preparing effective reports for monitoring and control.

Workface Planners form a bridge between the field and the office. Through the development of Work Packages, the Workface Planner plays a pivotal role in aligning construction execution with engineering design and project controls. Workface Planners are key to ensuring the right things get to the right people at the right time.

Project scope is initially divided into Construction Work Packages (CWP) for which boundaries are chalked out in the preliminary planning phase of a capital project. CWPs cover an array of disciplines and are intended to contain scope pertinent to a specific construction area or contract. CWPs are then further subdivided into Engineering Work Packages (EWP) that are specific to discipline and include all necessary documentation to define the fabrication and manufacturing requirements for individual components. EWPs are further divided into smaller Installation Work Packages (IWP) that form the basis for all construction work.

The approach to developing IWPs for each discipline is different. All construction work essentially involves the same major components of material and human resources with differences arising from the unique traits of each discipline. As far as complexity specific to discipline is concerned, piping is second to none. Save for spools identical in shape and size on similar trains, one will be hard-pressed to find identical spools on a given project. After factoring in requirements for testing and commissioning for piping, the level of complexity further increases.

With the establishment of ground rules to serve as a framework, the piping scope can be divided into Installation Work Packages (IWP) that promote better productivity and ensure accidents and rework are reduced or eliminated altogether. IWPs should ideally account for a week’s worth of work, or approximately 500 workhours, that can be performed by a single crew. The primary construction document for piping IWPs is an isometric drawing. ISOs, as they are more commonly known, provide information on location and details of pipe spools, specialty items, valves, fittings, and pipe supports. When creating IWPs from EWPs, some guidelines include:

  • Ensure that all scope included in an IWP is ready for construction and constraint free. Avoid scope for which material deliveries are incomplete, or scope for areas that are missing support structures.

  • Create IWPs such that the scope can be completed within a week.

  • Segregate scope that requires additional work steps that may take longer than expected. Piping that requires Lube Oil flush or chemical cleaning are ideally grouped into their own IWP.

  • Combining scope within a given area by pipe bore size is recommended. The support activities for the installation of large bore piping are much different from those for small bore piping. Due to their reduced maneuverability, large bore piping is installed prior to small bore piping.

  • The connection type between pipe spools can also influence the creation of IWPs. Piping with threaded ends, or screw piping, is ideally separated from piping joined using field welds and bolt-up connections.

  • IWPs can also consolidate similar activities that are usually done towards the end of a project. This can include activities such as installing hose connections, or testing of Pressure Relief Valves.

  • Piping connecting closely located equipment can also be grouped into their own IWP. Examples include piping that connects services from a support skid to major equipment.

  • Smaller spools, valves, and instruments that connect equipment only, collectively known as vessel trim, can be grouped together in an IWP.

  • IWPs can also be used to group change work that may arise from client requests or engineering clashes. For example, certain small bore drain lines connecting to large bore piping may require bracing that was overlooked in detailed design.

  • Piping service classification or commodity determines quality control and testing procedures and this can be used as a basis to create IWPs. For instance, piping for high pressure systems may be made of special alloys that require Positive Material Identification (PMI) testing.

There is no silver bullet when it comes to developing work packages and excessive rules and guidelines can make a flexible system prohibitive and difficult to use. Ultimately, it is up to the project management team to develop, agree upon, and consistently use a work packaging system that will permit the field to execute construction methodically, and allow project controls to track and monitor work progress logically.

The Workface Planner plays an important role in aligning the preferences of the field and the office to develop IWPs that are both logical and workable. In order for the system to succeed, team engagement and buy-in is essential. Sophisticated software tools only serve as a pathway to success, but if the wrong direction is chosen, failure is imminent. Careful attention needs to be dedicated during the early phases of construction planning, and a concerted effort should be made to gather and subsequently align the requirements of key construction team stakeholders. With a collaborative approach, the preferences of the field and the office can be dovetailed to harmoniously and successfully implement a work packaging process that promotes quality, efficiency, and safe construction.

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About the author

An active member of the AWP Institute, Adrian Saldanha is a Project Engineer with PCL Industrial Construction Co. (PICCo) based out of Houston, Texas. PICCo, which is a part of the PCL group, is an industrial contractor that specializes in oil, gas, chemical, and power construction. He is a Project Management Professional and a licensed Professional Engineer with experience in project management, project engineering, project controls, work packaging, Building Information Modeling (BIM), permitting, and construction claims. His project experience includes chemical plants, refineries, power plants, air quality control systems, heavy civil infrastructure, and commercial construction in India, Oman, and the United States. Adrian has presented on the applications of BIM, and construction claims using the measured mile approach in the United States and internationally. He obtained his B.S in Civil Engineering from National Institute of Technology Karnataka in India and his M.S in Civil Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin. His master’s degree focused on Construction Engineering and Project Management during which he worked as a graduate researcher investigating construction materials and testing.

Adrian’s professional interests include the promotion of BIM for project execution and the study of the impact of morale on productivity. Outside work, he likes to read books on human behavior and fiction, and explore nature trails.

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